Monday, February 22, 2010

CBO will not provide cost estimates for President's health care bill

As promised the White House released its new "compromise" health care reform bill this morning.  Ellen Shaffer at The Huffington Post calls it a modest policy proposal:
Based on the Senate bill, it improves affordability provisions by offering greater support to low and middle income individuals and families for premiums and lowering liability for out of pocket expenses. (Premiums would be capped at 9.5% of adjusted gross income.) To pay for the improvements, it increases employer contributions from $750 to $2,000 a year per worker, cuts Medicare Advantage, and includes investment income in the Medicare tax.

It would cover 31 million of the 45 million uninsured.

The "special deal" for Nebraska's Medicaid program is eliminated, replaced by greater federal assistance to all states for the first four years of the program, from 2014 to 2018.

The excise tax on health plans begins on plans that cost $27,500 a year per family.

It adopts a proposal by Sens. Feinstein and Rockefeller to establish a national authority to control insurance premiums. But it also includes the Ssnate bill provision championed by Olympia Snowe to let insurance companies do business across state lines.

While the President supports a public option and included it in his original proposal, he did not add it on to this bill.

The senate provisions restricting coverage for abortions are unchanged.
The Republican leadership is, predictably, not impressed.  From Fox News:
"It's disappointing that Democrats in Washington either aren't listening, or are completely ignoring what Americans across the country have been saying," U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a written statement.

"House Republicans welcome any good faith effort to start over on health care reform but the bill President Obama unveiled today is just more of the same government-run insurance, mandates and taxes the American people have overwhelmingly rejected," added Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.
The director of the Congressional Budget Office says the CBO will not be providing cost estimates to the President's proposal:
This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.
With all due respect to Ms. Shaffer at HuffPo, I do not consider any bill which gives the federal government the power to set prices in the private sector modest.

It will be interesting to see if all those Congressional Democrats who vowed not to vote for any health care bill unless and until the CBO declared it deficit neutral will keep their word.

You can download the President's proposal here.

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